The 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games, in Mill Spring, North Carolina, and the future of the Games were the subject of a well-attended session at the FEI General Assembly in Manama, Bahrain, Nov. 19.
The independent Equestrian Community Integrity Unit, which was tasked with investigating the issues surrounding the endurance championships at the Games, presented its findings on the sequence of events that took place from approximately 12 hours prior to the start of competition that ultimately led to the false start on Sept. 12.
Andrew Smith from the ECIU also detailed the underlying reasons that affected preparations for the endurance event, with the report’s findings based on information provided during interviews with multiple persons, including key people within the Organizing Committee, the FEI and other witnesses.
The conclusions of the report show that there was no single reason that caused the false start but multiple issues: most importantly lack of communication between officials—particularly the lack of radios—and also between the Organizing Committee, national federations and athletes, delays to the preparation of the vet gate and the endurance trail, and the decision to maintain a full schedule of events at Tryon International Equestrian Center that stretched an already under-resourced team required to deliver both these events and the Games.
The ECIU has also provided a second report to the FEI regarding allegations of misconduct. This will be reviewed by the FEI Legal team to assess whether further disciplinary proceedings will be brought before the FEI Tribunal. The final decisions on any such proceedings will be published by the FEI.
FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez then presented the overall conclusions, acknowledging that there were multiple factors that contributed, not just to the issues surrounding endurance but which also impacted the overall delivery of the Games. The management structure of the Organizing Committee, other construction projects and resources that were given priority over delivery of fields of play and other Games-related infrastructures, and communication of vital information in a timely manner were major contributory factors, she said.
However, “to be completely honest we, as a community, were fortunate that Tryon were courageous and willing to take on the enormous challenge to host the Games only 22 months prior to the event. Without them we would have had no WEG 2018.”
She informed delegates that the FEI invested close to $1 million on the endurance track alone, over and above other financial support provided by the FEI to the Organizing Committee to ensure the Games happened. In-keeping with good financial oversight, the FEI had made financial provisions specifically to cover emergency situations specifically related to the Games.
Mrs Ibáñez highlighted the incredible sport over the 12-day Games and the tireless teamwork of all concerned. “The Organizing Committee, the volunteers, officials and FEI staff and the national federations who, despite the frustrations, continued to work positively with both the Organizing Committee and FEI to find solutions and provide the best possible environment for their athletes, horses and team staff.”
She also acknowledged that, despite the FEI’s commitment to support the Organzing Committee, in particular during the latter stages of event preparations, the FEI had no realistic mechanism to push the Organizing Committee to deliver on its promises other than threatening to cancel the Games, which was not an option due to the time and resources that national federations and athletes had invested in preparing for the Games.
Prior to opening up the meeting to questions from the floor, the Secretary General talked through the plan to open up the bidding process for individual world championships in all disciplines for 2022, but with preference being given to multi-discipline bids.
The Secretary General stressed: “This does not necessarily mean the end of the FEI World Equestrian Games and bids to host all-discipline Games will still be considered.”
FEI Director Games Operations Tim Hadaway had opened the session by presenting a report on the planning and delivery of the Tryon 2018 Games, highlighting both the positive and negative aspects of four key areas: sport, Games operations, commercial, communications & media operations.
Top sport (with the exception of endurance) was the key success of the Games, along with superb broadcast coverage on NBC in the home market, including 57 hours of live coverage that resulted in a record audience for equestrian sport. However, lack of venue readiness and an under-resourced Organizing Committee, both from a financial and personnel perspective, were major negatives that ultimately impacted the delivery of the Games.
Questions and comments during the 90-minute session from National Federation delegates from France, Chile, Spain, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, Uruguay, Italy and Bahrain focused on weather and the suitability of Tryon for the Games, reimbursements to national federations that sent endurance athletes and horses to the Games, lack of communication, Officials, and lack of accountability.